Nurse Residency Program: The Next Adventure

Chapter one, part two is about to begin and I am excited.   In three weeks I will begin the nurse residency program and take a step closer to my fulfilling my lifelong dream of being a nurse.  Last month I received the coveted phone call from a facility I had applied to.  After a long telephone interview and two panel interviews that spanned three months, I was offered a position in their nurse residency program.   

So, you might be asking, why part two? Well, nursing school was part one—and it was a challenging but rewarding time in my life. And something tells me this new adventure I am about to embark on will be even more so. I haven’t even gone to orientation yet, and drug tests, immunizations, vaccination checks, and a host of other fun human resource activities are keeping me busy until the big day.

For those who do not know what a nurse residency program is, it is a bridge that takes the newly graduated nurse and aids in the transformation into a confident practitioner. The programs vary from state to state, with some being offered by schools of nursing or health care facilities. The length of time can also vary.  I have heard of programs being as small as sixteen weeks to larger programs stemming an entire year.

Nurse residency programNurse residency programs are not to be confused with New Grad RN positions, even though both are paid positions.  In the New Grad jobs, the nurse is hired on to a particular unit, trained, and expected to become a part of that health care team.  Nurse residency programs work similarly to a medical residency where the candidate is moved around to various units, gaining exposure and experience.  At the conclusion of the program, the candidate interviews with the unit where there was a potential “right fit” and if all goes as planned, this area becomes their specialty. 

I have heard many a conversation about individuals not content where they are working because of various reasons: needed a job right away; family members work there; or nothing else was available.  The last thing I want to do is have my very first registered nurse position be a disaster.

The goal of nurse residency programs is to give new nurses the opportunity to be exposed to true nurse life while they are gaining skills. The once-a-week experience from nursing school only goes so far. Many facilities institute these programs to aid in increasing retention rates of the newly trained nurses and allow them the time to develop their competence, communication skills, and become satisfied in their work.

The residency program I am starting lasts sixteen weeks, where you spend at least 4 weeks on at least two units. A new resident can spend up to 8 weeks on a unit and then switch to another one.  One unit is acute care and the other is a progressive care unit. Choices range from oncology, orthopedics, and medical-surgical to trauma/neurology, transplant, and cardiac medical-surgical.  The program runs like school where novice nurses are matched with preceptors on a regular work schedule and at the end of the shift, the cohort gets together in a post-conference meeting to discuss their day and what they are learning.

Along with learning the units and the facilities’ policies and procedures, new nurses participate in simulations with “live” mannequins that make breathing sounds, bleed, deliver babies, and go into codes.  There will be special classes to brush on ECG and pharmacology.  And yes, there will be an Evidence-Based Practice project that will have to be completed.  Now we’re really sounding like nursing school.  I’ll pause to say this: nursing is a lifetime of learning.  So if you think you’re done with school after you get your pin and take NCLEX, think again.

residencyAt the eleven to twelve week point of the program, the interviews start. This is particularly important because you want to get picked up by the unit you worked on.  Once the decision is made, at the fifteen to sixteen week mark the new nurse transitions into their new unit permanently, and the position takes on the expected look of a new graduate position. There is a small graduation of sorts upon completion.  Those that have been through the program are not saying much to me about this.  I have a feeling it must be truly spectacular because everyone that has gone through the program are still working on their units, still happy and still smiling.

I am eagerly counting down the days.  I enjoyed my clinical rotations while in nursing school, so much so that if someone asked me what I wanted to do it was always that unit I happened to be working on.  I just loved everything, with the exceptions of oncology, mental health, and pediatrics. Those areas were not at the top of my lists to start my nursing career.  So I’ll be spending these last weeks, my vacation, reading, resting and reviewing for this new chapter in my life.  Let the adventure continue!


Kimberley Ensor is a new grad RN from SDSU, a published author, and is currently earning her Masters in Nursing with an emphasis in teaching. Visit her blog http://nursekimberley.blogspot.com/ or follow on Twitter @KimEnsorRN